Jessica Bennett realized that she needed to take the advice that she had been giving her own child for years. Read her story.
Our family stopped making New Year's Resolutions a few years ago. Instead, every January, my family chooses words we feel like God has really placed on our hearts to focus on for that year. My word for 2016 was Selah, and my word for 2017 is Listen. God has given me MANY opportunities over this past year and a half to learn a LOT about both of these words whether I wanted to or not. I'm learning to be still.. to pause.. to reflect.. to praise ... Selah. Also, I'm learning to listen: to seek His will for my family and to not just seek it but to obey and follow Him.
I'm sure, if asked, we could all think of those times in our lives when things were most challenging, maybe not all bad, but a challenge nonetheless.
Some of my family's biggest challenges throughout our faith journey have been:
- Moves and changes in ministry
- Struggles through different family member's addictions including my husband's (who has given me permission to share)
- And our struggles to grow our family
About a year after we had Olivia (our 8-year-old daughter) we started trying to get pregnant again. We saw a fertility specialist when we had no success. After 3 years and 4 rounds of fertility treatments we still had not conceived a baby, and the only thing doctors could say was there was no medical reason why. In that time, I would cry out asking God why. Why had He put this desire in my heart and no baby? God sent plenty of signs that He was directing us to adoption but I wouldn't listen. I wasn't ready to listen.
One night we were at some friends' house and they asked us why we wanted to get pregnant so badly. We told them we wanted to give Olivia a sibling. We wanted to grow our family, and with tears rolling down my face I told them that I never knew Olivia would be the only baby I would get to carry in my tummy. I wanted that chance again. We had more love to give. They told us there were other ways to do that, and not to close our minds to other possibilities. That was just one way God used someone to get our attention, to open our ears to listen, but even still I wasn't ready. By the way, that family was the Humberts.
Later that same week I was dropping Olivia off at preschool. As long as I have been taking my daughter to preschool and now before she leaves for school and when I drop our 3-year-old son Eli (spoiler alert...we did adopt) off at preschool I've said the same little phrases to them:
*Be a Leader
*Be Strong and Courageous
*Shine Jesus' Light
*Listen, Obey, and be Kind
Before they really ever knew what it meant to obey I would remind them to do it.
Well, on that day I told her the same old thing, but this time God yanked at my heart in a really big way. It was like I said the words and as I was saying them I could hear God telling me that as much as I wanted these things for my child, it was exactly what He wanted for me.
Be a Leader. Be strong and courageous. Shine Jesus' light. Listen, obey, and be kind.
Lead your family, Jess -- at that time my husband had only been sober a couple years, and his relationship with Jesus was growing but I was still the spiritual leader of our house. I had to lead the way.
Be strong and courageous. I didn't know what that would mean but as SOON as we started the adoption process I realized it was going to be a hard journey. It was so expensive. There were so many hurdles to jump, paperwork to fill out, and house inspections (which was totally annoying since we knew of many people who got pregnant and became parents without any kind of inspection like that of their homes.) Then there were the two failed placements. That was when two different birth moms were down to choosing between our family and only one other family and they didn't choose us. Why not us? Then there was even more waiting. It took strength that was not my own. It came from Jesus even when I was frustrated with Him for having us wait this long. He was big enough to handle that and give me strength to keep going.
Shine Jesus' Light. I was scared and hurt every time a door was closed to the possibility of growing our family, and some days the last thing I felt like I could do was shine any kind of light. However, in those moments, Jesus would step in and remind me He had endured any and all pain I could ever feel, and I could rest in Him. In those times I would regain my gratitude for who He was and who He made me to be.
And last but not least -- to listen, obey, and be kind. Not only was I convicted to listen to His promptings and signs, but also to OBEY. However, when things get tough, these words become very difficult to actually ACT OUT. This last one has resurfaced time and time again in my life and most recently it has been over the past couple of months as our family made the tough decision to resign from our current position in ministry at Trietsch.
It was never our intention to move our family to a whole new church and ministry after having just moved from Oklahoma back to Texas, then moving across DFW, starting new schools and jobs, and going through a very challenging pregnancy, and bringing a miracle baby in to the family and then to resign.—However, if I've learned anything over the past 10 years in full-time ministry and with my family, it is to shut up and listen when I don't seem to know the answers. Then to watch as God unfolds His plans. Sometimes it means not seeing an answer but trusting in the One who has all the answers.
With our adoption, we saw the promise in Elijah after a year of waiting for him. With our pregnancy-- it took 8 years but, now we have our baby, Selah. With Adam's alcoholism: that's a lifelong process, but to see my husband lead our family spiritually and grow closer to Jesus every day -- that's an answer to prayer and a result of Adam's obedience. Then comes our place in ministry. When we started asking God for clarity about Trietsch-- it was hard, and I even asked for more time to make a decision (which leadership was great about giving to me.) We prayed as a family and asked God for clear signs. I read more of His word every day. I took out distractions of social media (fasted.) I asked for council from others in my life who love Jesus and love our family. Although I did not hear His audible voice, God gave me the clarity in His time. Now having said that, I have no idea what's next, and for the first time, ever, I'm leaving one area of ministry having no idea what ministry will be next, but I do know when we listen and obey and go forward with kindness. God shows up and shows off and His plans are greater than mine... every time.
So, we can go about life just going through the motions, and let the wind throw us here there and everywhere. We can get caught up in the noise of the world and get distracted which usually leads to falling off course, or we can really listen. We can follow the One Leader who is always there with the next steps if we will listen and follow Him. If we will listen and obey.
I will leave you with a few simple scriptures that help me in times of listening and in taking steps of obedience:
Blessed or Joyful are those who obey his laws .
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.